Thanks for responding Lietweight, I enjoying talking about audio and sharing my experiences. I have enjoyed a long career in audio, designing, selling, and setting some the very finest in home audio gear. I also have a audio engineering degree and background, and have helped produce music, but its the home audio area that I have actually learned more about the playback chain.
I certainly go against the grain in what many people believe in a few critical areas. Speakers for one, now i'm not saying that speakers are not important and that they don't make a difference, BUT its the detail in the music that makes it more involving and gives you a greater emotional connection to the music.
It is important to understand that there are many ways to enjoy music, none of them wrong, hell you can listen to music on a clock radio and enjoy it, for the lyrical content, the performance, but many listeners have not had the experience to listen to music on a well designed hi-end audio system. There is a much deeper connection to what the artist intent was and a system well done can give you a very good reproduction of the original performance.
When I design systems for customers I do first start with evaluating speakers, have them listen to different speakers to get a feel for how they like to listen to music. Speakers do have a big effect on the presentation and tonal balance know doubt. We try and narrow it down to a few models, keeping in mind the type of room they have and any limitations they might have in speaker placement.
No doubt the room and speaker placement are critical I could talk hours about speaker placement which is both a science and a art takes alot of patience and knowledge. It can make and break a system but thats takes years of experience to perfect.
After we have narrowed it down to speakers then we try different electronics, cables. I tell customers that this is a starting point and will have to be fine tuned in the actual room we setup in. In some cases we may even have try different speakers, electronics, cables in how it interacts with the room and again how they want it to sound. Because I have so many years of experience I have a pretty good idea whats going to work and whats not. Its certainly a process that takes patience to do it right.
Many audiophiles have spent years perfecting our systems and alot of times its trial and error.
But I do strongly feel that people dont put enough emphasis on the electronics and its the front end (source, preamp, amp) that will ultimately make the biggest difference in the emotional connection to the music.
Let me give you a Example: Compare two systems.
Take the best speaker you can think of hook it up to reciever ( lol as long as it can drive it )and cd player
Then compare it to a system with a killer front end (source, preamp, transport and dac ) hook it up to even a good $700 dollar pair of speakers I guarentee you the $700 dollar speakers will knock your socks off, will be much more detailed, and involving.
The speakers are only going to reproduce what they are given, the detail comes from the electronics, so if the details is not there you will eventually become bored with the music and find it uninvolving.
People are often very surprised that a speaker they thought was not very good, can be fantastic when coupled with the right electronics. I think most people often think its a limitation in speakers when its really the electronics that are limiting the speakers. And that is even more true with high end speakers for many are very damanding of what you put in front of it.
I'll never forget seeing a ad in the paper from a dealer who was advertising a very nice pair of electrostatics, sold with a reciever. lol well sorry to say there was no way in hell that reciever could even began to drive the speaker and quarenteed they would be getting alot of cooked recievers lol. Which they did and had to pull that ad quick lol. Heard the recievers throughout some nice flames lol.
Honestly if I had to rate the importance of each part in a system, I give the preamp the number one spot in importance, then source, then amp, then speakers. The preamp is the heart of the system, has the biggest effect on the sound and presentation. Its the hardest piece to manufacture and get right.
Cables are the final tool and needs to be considered as a component for it can make all the difference. I use cables as the final touch in fine tuning the overall tonality and presentation.
Most of the time I will not use the same manufactures cables throughout a system, as in most cases each manufactures have thier strengths and weekness's. I hope you've had the chance to try different digital cables as well as they also make a huge difference.
I guess the point was I was trying to inform people that cables do make a considerable difference.
Acoustics is another area I debate with alot with people, and accessories, oh boy thats a big one lol.
I think if people understand that everything has an effect on the sound, the question is it better or just different and learning how to determine that.
Be happy to talk more about audio or answer any questions
Oh and reponse to cables coloring the sound. lol well nothing in audio is neutral everything has its own color or sonic characteristic, so its getting the right mix of colorations that compliment each other and getting to sound right to your ears.